Ellie’s phone chimed. “I hope that’s her. I’m starting to get really worried.” She’d kept her phone right beside her for the last two hours, worried she’d miss a response. Stella had been in Urgent Care for over five hours. Ellie and her father had gone to the bookstore, spent time talking to her lawyer uncle, and picked up their new dog in that time. To kill another hour, and because they thought she wouldn’t want to smell the food anyway, they’d driven to Culver’s and picked up supper to go. They took their meal to a nearby park and were eating at a picnic bench, allowing Jack to get out but keeping him on the leash so he’d stay close.
Ellie sighed as she read Stella’s text. “She says it’ll be even longer. They want to run some tests before they release her. Should I go to be with her and you can run Jack home?”
“If you think she’d like you with her, we can certainly do that. Why don’t you ask her?”
Ellie typed her reply and sent it. A few moments later, she heard back. Stella would like for her to come, but didn’t want to pull her away from anything. She read the message to her father. He nodded. “Tell her you’ll be there in about twenty minutes.” She sent the message. They weren’t completely finished with their meal, but she knew they weren’t far from the clinic.
Jack was lying quietly at her feet. She tried to share a french fry with Jack, but he sniffed at it and turned away. She knew he’d have to go through a bit of a depression in his new setting as he let go of his old life and embraced his new one. “It’ll be okay, Jack,” she murmured to him as she scratched his ears. “We’re good people too and I already love you.” His ears perked up as she spoke, his eyes meeting hers briefly before looking away. She pinched off a bit of her burger, with cheese melted on it, and offered him that. He accepted it readily and even rose to his feet, sniffing the air around her. She laughed and pinched off another bite for him.
“Don’t spoil my dog, kiddo.” Her father smiled, but she knew there was a grain of truth in the tease.
“Oh Daddy, you know he’ll never be allowed in the house while we’re eating. How many chances will I have?”
“If I know you, there’ll be plenty.” But he didn’t complain when she gave him the rest of her burger. She couldn’t eat the whole thing anyway. And she wanted the dog to know he could trust her.
Fifteen minutes later, she walked into the clinic and asked for Stella. It took her a few minutes to follow the directions she was given, but eventually she found the right area. A nurse escorted her to Stella’s room.
Stella was sitting up in the hospital bed watching television when she walked in. “You look better already! How do you feel?”
“Much better! They even brought me some soup and I ate it all. Everything still tastes a little off, but maybe that’s what pregnancy does to me.”
“Maybe. What kind of tests do they still want to do?”
“They’ve ordered an ultrasound because I’m measuring bigger than what I should be for six weeks along.”
“Huh, well maybe you’re further along than you thought? How cool would that be? Just skip some of those queasy weeks and get to the baby sooner.”
“Sounds too good to be true so I won’t believe it until they tell me.” She put her hand in front of her mouth like she was trying to hide and leaned toward Ellie to whisper, “But I sure wouldn’t complain if that turns out to be the case.”
Ellie chuckled. “Do you know when they’ll be doing the ultrasound?”
“It was supposed to be done about an hour ago, but there was an emergency so it got pushed back a bit. Which is fine. If it were me having the emergency, I’d want others to be patient and understanding. In the meantime, I’ve been googling different ways to tell Reid. Some people have waaaay too much time on their hands. I don’t want to wait longer than I have to so that I can plan some elaborate scheme. I’ve decided that I’m going to buy a stuffed animal made for a baby, wrap it up really nice, and have a card for someone who’s expecting attached to it. Maybe I’ll take a picture of the pregnancy test and throw it in the card, too. As proof. I left it sitting on my bathroom sink because I keep looking at it to make sure I haven’t dreamed this up.”
“That sounds like a fun way to tell him. Have you guys been talking?”
Stella’s eyes lost a little of their sparkle and her smile faded. “We talk every night and text through the day. It’s mostly insignificant stuff, but he’s apologized more than once so I’m taking that as a hopeful sign that he wants to stay with me.”
“I can’t imagine him with anyone else. It’s always been you Stella, for as long as I can remember.”
“But he didn’t know you were in love with him, too. Now he does. I don’t know if that changes anything. Why would he want to stay with me, when he could have you?” Tears filled her eyes and she blinked them away.
“No, Stella, he can never have me. I was in love with him a long time ago. But that was before a lot of things.”
“Like, it was before he showed me your engagement ring. Before you got married. Before he read all of my journals without permission.” She pressed her lips together, remembering. “It’s going to take a while to forgive him for that last one. I should let you read them all so that you guys can talk through anything you need to. Then I’m going to burn the blasted things. I never imagined anyone, especially him, ever reading them.” She paused. “Were you ever in love before Reid?”
“Yes, once. Why?”
“Well, imagine that you put all of your feelings about that guy down on paper and then years later he gets to read them. You don’t feel that way about him anymore, but now all of that is out there between the two of you and you can’t really talk it through and so it just sits there, worming it’s way into your friendship. And every time you catch him looking at you, you wonder if he’s thinking about what you used to dream about.”
Stella was quiet for several minutes. “I’ve never thought of it like that but I can definitely see your point. I don’t need to read the journals, Ellie. I’m pretty sure I can imagine it well enough. And I don’t think I want to be talking with Reid about your journals in the future. You two will have to hash that out between you. And I’d really like for you to do that before Reid and I try to work it out. Because I need to know that he’s really there for me and this baby. Not that he’s secretly hoping that you two have a chance someday.”
“I’d hoped we could just act like it never happened, but I guess I see your point. I’ll talk to him about it the next time I see him.”
“I think that’s going to be tomorrow, so be prepared. I’m going to tell him to come out and pick me up for dinner tomorrow and then I’m going home. I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you, but I really want to spend the rest of my vacation at home. I’m actually excited to start planning the nursery and stuff.”
The door opened and a woman came into the room, pulling a large cart with a monitor and some other things on top. Ellie leaned toward Stella. “You get to see your baby now!”
Stella grabbed her hand and didn’t let go. “I’m so nervous. I’m glad you’re here.” Ellie squeezed her hand in reply and smiled.
The ultrasound technician introduced herself and began to set up the procedure. She asked Stella to pull her hospital gown up and then squirted a clear gel over her lower abdomen. She explained what she was doing as she went. “Now, Stella, I want you to know that this is new equipment so I’m still learning how to work with it. And right now, your fetus is very small and has a lot of space to hide in. It may take me a few moments to try to find him or her but when I do, I’ll turn this screen toward you so you can see your baby.” Her voice sounded distracted as her hand adjusted the wand she held pressed against Stella’s belly. Then it froze and she began tapping buttons.
Stella’s eyes darted between the technician’s face and Ellie’s. Her expression grew more and more serious as the moments flew by. “Is there a problem?” Her voice shook.
The technician glanced at Stella and then returned her focus to the screen. “Oh, no, no, I’m just trying to get everything in order.” Her hand relaxed and she withdrew the wand. “I told you before that this is a new machine and I’m trying to learn it. But there’s someone who’s worked with it a lot more than I have and I want her to come in. Is it okay if I go get her?”
Stella nodded and the woman turned off the screen, rose, and left the room. Stella stared after her. “Something’s not right, that’s why she left, isn’t it?” Her soft voice sounded frightened.
“We don’t know that. She might have had trouble getting the baby to stay still long enough to get a picture.”
Stella shook her head. “No, something’s wrong.” She closed her eyes. Ellie pressed Stella’s hand between both of hers. The door opened and two women came in. The technician was followed by an older woman.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Rebecca Stern.” She shook Stella’s hand, then Ellie’s, and then clicked on the machine as her hand swept the wand up and over Stella’s abdomen. “Now let’s take another look.” She paused and began to click buttons and adjust the monitor. “There you are!” Stella’s shoulders relaxed and she sighed audibly. “And there you are!” She clicked more buttons before turning the screen toward Stella. “We found out why you’re measuring bigger than you should. Take a look at your twins!”
“TWINS!!” Stella and Ellie shouted simultaneously.
The doctor pointed out the two babies on the screen. “If you look carefully, you’ll see that they’re identical. They share the same sack.” Her finger drew a circle along a thin white line on the monitor. “Here’s baby #1,” she traced again, “and baby #2. Now, if you look at the two in comparison, you’ll see that one of the babies is quite a bit bigger than the other. Both have heartbeats, so both are alive, and you can see them moving. But you need to be aware that occasionally one of the two won’t survive. It’s possible that the littlest one may not make it. Sometimes it just depends on whether he or she is a fighter.”
“What happens if it doesn’t make it?” Stella stared at the screen.
“Usually your body just absorbs it when they’re very small like this. And the surviving baby is fine.”
“Hang in there, little one.” Stella’s eyes flitted between the screen and her abdomen. “Don’t give up. Fight!”
The doctor took some more measurements very quickly and recorded them. She printed out some pictures and handed them to Stella. “These are for you to keep. You need to call your obstetrician and tell them you’re pregnant with twins. They’ll set up appointments differently for you. And will try to help you prepare for an earlier delivery than what you thought. Twins generally do not go full term. You need to be prepared for the possibility of confinement–bed rest–during the last few weeks too.” She wiped the gel off Stella’s abdomen as she spoke. “Do you have any questions?”
“Tons, but I think I’ll save them for my doctor,” Stella answered.
“Sounds good.” She shook their hands again. “Take care of yourself and congratulations!”
“Thank you.” Stella waited until they left the room and then studied the pictures in her hands. “How am I going to tell Reid now?”
“Just put the pictures in the card or in the box and let him figure it out,” Ellie said.
“Oh my gosh, he’s going to flip out! Two babies, Ellie! We’re having twins!”
Ellie laughed. “I know, I was here!”
“I just can’t grasp it. Double everything! TWO nurseries?!”
“Well, maybe not. I believe I’ve heard that twins like being together and if you separate them it’s harder for them. And for you in that case.”
“Oh, yeah, I think you’re right.” She threw the blanket off. “Where are my clothes? We need to get out of here.”
“Whoa, I think they have to tell you that.” She put the blanket back over Stella.
“Fine. Where’s my nurse button.” She dug it out from under her elbow and pressed the button several times.
“I’ll call my dad and tell him to come back for us,” Ellie said, digging her phone out of her pocket.
“Okay, but don’t tell him about the twins. I want Reid to know first. Or, I guess it would be third since I found out first and you found out second.” Stella talked and talked. She seemed to be in chatterbox mode, so shocked from finding out she was carrying two babies instead of the one she expected. Ellie let her talk, trying to be calm in the storm of excitement surrounding her friend.